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Short Story for Fiction Writing Class


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This week, I’m celebrating the end of Start Writing Fiction in Futurelearn, one of the MOOC’s I’m taking. For our last assignment, we were asked to write a 750-1000 word story. As a slow writer who tends to mull things over for a long time before getting anything down, this is tough, especially with the word count constraint. I considered using one of my stories as a base for the assignment but without much editing, it’s probably going to come off as an excerpt instead of a story on its own, so I decided to start from scratch.


Here’s what I ended up with:

Aidan looked up as Colleen walked in the door. She looked tanned and beautiful in her white sundress. It had been a long time since he saw her laugh—a genuine laugh and not the kind that barely reached her eyes. It pained him to realize being away from him was the change she needed.

“How was Florence?” he asked but she didn’t pay him any attention as she headed straight to the bar, pouring herself a drink. Aidan watched as she gulped the liquid down in one go.

“You shouldn’t be drinking. It’s not good for the baby.” He tried to snatch the glass from her hand but she was too swift for him. “God damn it, Colleen!” Over the last few weeks, it had been increasingly difficult for him to get through to her. Colleen refused to tell him anything, preferring instead to keep up with the pretense of being the perfect married couple. And that was exactly what they were—perfect on the outside but flawed on the inside.

He remembered the first time he saw her, that was nearly thirteen years ago now. She was the new girl in school and he thought she was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen, with her sun gold hair and clear blue eyes. He was a good head shorter than she was then, with wire-rimmed glasses and the self confidence that came with being the school’s biggest geek. He sat next to her in two of his classes and the days she’d flashed her smile at him when she copied off him were the happiest of his school days.

Of course, he didn’t learn until years later, during their ten-year high school reunion that she did not remember him at all. Two years he’d sat next to her, two years she’d copied off his tests and assignments, flashing him the best and brightest smile she only reserved for jocks, to learn that she had no recollection of him at all. He supposed he had changed much by then. Gone were the thick glasses, replaced with contacts and while he was only a few inches taller than she, he had that wizened look about him and the air of confidence that only money could buy.

Barely two years out of college and he was a millionaire, having developed a security system that blew all the competition to the dust. That, coupled, with some wise investments, had shoot him up to become what he’d never imagined he’d be during his teenage years—an eligible bachelor. When women started seeing him as attractive, he guessed it was artificial, probably more to do with his money than anything else. He might have grown up but there still was nothing arresting about him. He had the same boyish, ruddy face and thin lips. His light brown hair had a tendency to curl and it only added all the more to the impression of a boy who was barely out of high school.

Colleen changed all that. She made him feel like he was the same high school boy and that grown up man, all at once. She’d listened attentively as he talked and had rebuffed every other man’s attention, allowing him to monopolize her time for the better part of the night. He’d confessed he had the biggest crush on her in high school and her musical laugh was all the response he got. Still, it made him feel wonderful to finally have her next to him, laughing with him, seeing him for the man that he truly was.

“You’re back early.” Aidan turned to find Spencer, his securities specialist, coming into the room. “Bored of Italy already?”

Colleen brightened at the sight of Spencer. “No. It was lovely. But it’s not the same without you. I missed you.”

Aidan watched as Colleen wrapped her arms around Spencer, kissing him—if he was honest with himself—like she’d never kissed him before. Spencer’s hands were all over his wife and rage like nothing Aidan had known before surged inside him. He lunged at Spencer, uncaring that Spencer was bigger than him, but only managed to grab empty air as he flew through the couple. His repeated attempts were all futile and Aidan couldn’t understand what was happening. How could they be carrying on right in front of him as if he wasn’t even there? Colleen was going to pay for this. He would file for divorce, cut her off, and take the baby when it was born. She would never see their child again or a single cent of his money.

“Poor Aidan,” Spencer said with a shake of his head. “He didn’t even know what hit him.”

Colleen laughed, that same musical laugh from the night of the reunion. “He’s always been gullible. It was a rather brilliant plan, from start to finish, if I do say so myself. He never could resist me, you know. Why, the poor sucker even left everything to me, just as I knew he would.”

~ END ~


It’s a bit rough but for the purposes of the assignment, I think I achieved what I set out to do. Most of the comments I received was that the ending seemed rush. I agree. Someone said they could see this becoming a longer piece of work. I don’t know about that though. The story was strictly for the assignment and I don’t really like Colleen enough to work on her for a longer piece. What do you think? Did the ending come as a surprise to you?

Writing a novel is a huge undertaking. It could take years and the demands of writing one is great. That is not to say that short stories are any easier. You really have to make those words count.

Do you prefer shorts or novels? What are the most difficult parts for you?

What are you celebrating this week? Join us each Friday as we Celebrate The Small Things, with our host VikLit and my fellow co-hosts Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, and Katie @ TheCyborg Mom. Visit them to see what they are celebrating this week.

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17 thoughts on “Short Story for Fiction Writing Class

  1. I recently took on the challenge of writing a short story to submit to a publisher for an anthology. The concerns that you have are the same that I’m dealing with right now! My entry is a side story to a novel that I’m writing. My hope is that they will accept my short story and it will generate interest in the novel when it is done. I wanted the story to end showing a continuation in the storyline but still be a stand alone story. It’s been tough. I’m freaking out about only having 3,000 words. And after researching how publishers do word count, I’m freaking out even more because I just don’t get it!
    Your short story is great. I don’t think the ending was too abrupt. I’m sure that you get lots of input from more seasoned people, but maybe for the ending, cut out a bit from the middle and elaborate on Aiden recalling his death as he rushes toward Colleen. I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks! I’m sure it is hard to fit into 3000 words all you want to do with the story. It’s a tough call on what makes it and don’t. I think it’s a wonderful idea though, to have that short story linked to your actual novel. Good luck with the submission. Let me know how it works out. 🙂

  2. Writing short is hard. Everything in a short piece has to count double. I can see why you don’t like Colleen. I don’t either, and I think there should be something in this to make us wonder why she’s the way she is. Glad you got your assignment finished.

    • I agree. You don’t have a lot of things to play with for a short so it’s really a hit and miss kind of thing. I actually hadn’t thought of including that aspect in the story–why Colleen is the way she is. I think that’d be an interesting spin, to give some humanity to her at least but I think I just wanted to present her as hateful as possible LOL.

  3. Pretty cool story. Realized Aiden was dead when Stephen started kissing his wife (no-one is that bold! Lol)

  4. Congrats on finishing your story! I enjoyed reading it. I wasn’t surprised that Colleen was having an affair, but I was surprised to find Aidan was a ghost. I never have very good luck with short stories. Everything I write refuses to stay short and eventually turns into a novel. I prefer novels to short stories as a general rule. I like to immerse myself in them and have more time to learn all about the characters and their worlds. You can’t really do that with a short story.

    • I agree. There’s just so much more for you to work with and develop in a novel vs a short story. All the possible twists and turns and where those might take you, you just can’t do that in a short. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. 🙂 Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

  5. Good Short, Colleen’s a nasty girl and I feel sorry for ghostly Aidan…

  6. Pingback: June Roundup – Celebrating The Small Things | Just Get It Written

  7. Well done for finishing the course. Enjoyed reading your assignment. I agree that maybe the ending did feel a tad rushed, but for the purpose of the assignment it’s really good. I like your writing style. I know what you mean about needing time to write. It can take me ages just to finish a paragraph or even a sentence sometimes, and sticking to word counts is difficult. For writing I prefer short stories because I’m limited on time and still a practising writer. I think that by writing less I can really focus on the quality of it. On the other hand it’s harder to fit in all of the details necessary to the story. I often find that short stories rely on the use of summary a lot to fit it all in. I’ve noticed this a lot from the short stories written by H.P. Lovecraft that I’m reading at the moment, the structure feels very different. As a reader I think I prefer longer stories because it gives me more time to engage with the characters.

    • Thanks and congrats on finishing too! I agree that with a short piece, it is hard to get invested in the characters. Both has its pros and cons, but like you, I much prefer reading novels than short stories.

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